When it comes to fighting entitlement, gratitude is foundational. Ingratitude often betrays a person swollen with entitlement. When someone complains, it is usually because they are ungrateful for what they have. If someone is satisfied with what they have, then there is no need to grumble. They are polar opposites. The entitled person starts from the basis that they deserve something the way THEY want it. On the other hand, when someone is grateful, personal demands melt away and one usually doesn’t feel they deserve more.
When I struggle with entitlement, I often have to return to the starting point of realizing that I DESERVE NOTHING. This concept can be a pretty appalling, even offensive, for some people to hear. Of course we deserve things! The documents on which our country is founded state that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Politicians tell us all the time that we deserve this and that, so electing them will ensure we get it. Schools tell us that all kids deserve a healthy meal (which is ironic, as most school meals are terrible). How about ad campaigns? They are chock-full of slogans that point out that you are #1 and that you deserve everything. Here are my top favorites, and I am pretty sure at least half are engrained in America’s subconscious (well, if you were born before 1975). See if you can guess the company’s slogan below:
“You deserve a break today.”
“Because I'm worth it."
"When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight."
"Have it your way."
“Two for me none for you.”
“You only go around once in this life, so you have to grab for all the gusto you can get.”
“Everything We Do is Driven By You.”
“Hungry? Why wait?”
“You deserve justice — now demand it.”
“Is ready when you are.”
“You asked for it. You got it.”
“Drive your Way.”
“Everything you want, nothing you don’t.”
“Your Way Right Away!”
We can’t escape being told that we deserve things. We hear it so much that it is really easy to believe. However, we need to recognize the lies for what they are. The truth is, we deserve nothing in this world. Just because some people got together and declared it so does not make it true. Still offended? Then prove to me with an objective source that you deserve wonderful things to make your life better. You probably can’t, because even if you find one, there will be another one right alongside it that will prove it wrong. Eventually you need to come to the humble position that this world owes you nothing. If anything, this world constantly fails us. Therefore, absolutely EVEYTHING I have I need to be grateful for. When I adopt this attitude, it is amazing how the entitlements fall away and left in its place is an immense sense of contentment and joy.
The bible supports this position:
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing;so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” Philippians 2:14, 15
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, willguard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
If you have ingratitude stemming from entitlement, I encourage you to try to look for things for which to be grateful. If you grew up in a home with a roof over your head, then you have something to be grateful for. The reason I feel so strongly about this is because I used to be terribly ungrateful. It took me years of taking small steps of giving thanks to God for what I had. But now, after years of putting this into practice, my heart and mind are more light, free and joyful. There are so many ways you can express thanks, but these are my favorite ways:
1) I randomly stop and look around at everything my eye can see, appreciate I have it (or am experiencing it), and thank God out loud for his provision. I would recommend if you do this in a public place, (like at the park or grocery store) you do the latter in your head, otherwise those around you may think you are a mental patient.
2) Making lists of all the things I can be thankful for. This can be on the spur of the moment on the back of an envelope, or planned out in a designated prayer journal. The point is you are acknowledging in a tangible way that in every situation you are in, you have things to give thanks about.
3) Starting off my prayers with multiple things for which I am grateful. This works especially well when I am not in a mood to pray. If I can start talking to God about the things I am grateful for, a few minutes into the prayer I find myself suddenly in a good mindset and am excited about talking to God about things that are on my heart.
Regarding entitlement specifically, when I have something taken away, I try to be in the habit of giving thanks to God outside my circumstances. It took me a few years of practicing gratitude to get to this point, but I am glad I did it because it now melts away any bad attitude that might settle in because I didn’t get what I felt was entitled to me. Or to be controlled by my circumstances or what I have or don't have!
If you struggle with an entitled heart, start practicing gratitude. You will find that even though it may be awkward at first, it is well worth the effort!